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The UnBulgarians - Photo exhibitions of the faces behind immigration statistics

The UnBulgarians depicts the contemporary Bulgarian multicultural society. Through the use of photography, the project intends to trigger media and public debate on xenophobia, discrimination and integration. It showcases photographs of foreigners living in Bulgaria - EU citizens and third country nationals, including refugees - photographed at emblematic Bulgarian locations, in Bulgarian traditional costumes or holding objects identified as Bulgarian.

Issue/challenge and goal/assumption

In the past few years, Bulgaria morphed from a country of emigration to a country of immigration. With the recent wave of migrants striving to enter the EU, the problem of hate speech, xenophobia, racism and intolerance is more pronounced than ever before. The goal of The UnBulgarians was to provoke a debate on the issues of integration and identity.

The project presented to the broader public the faces and stories of the real people behind the well communicated immigration statistics and aimed at challenging the stereotypes about the foreigners who are living in Bulgaria.


How does it work

41 foreigners of different nations, ethnicity, religion, social status and sex living in Bulgaria were identified and photographed. All participants were also interviewed on the basis of a standard questionnaire aimed at revealing their level of integration into the Bulgarian society, their identity as foreigners in the country and in a broader sense, what defines Bulgaria's national and cultural identity in the 21st century.

As result, 30 photographs were printed and exhibited in 5 Bulgarian cities as well as in Strasbourg. The photographs and interviews were published in a bi-lingual (Bulgarian - English) catalogue and website.


Take a look at more pictures from events in:

Furthermore, the general public is encouraged to continue the project by send their own UnBulgarians' stories which will be published here.


With more than 60 appearances on national and major regional media, over 100,000 reactions on Facebook, and more than 20,000 unique visits on the website, The UnBulgarians had a significant media impact. The coverage was mostly positive, with journalists eager to discuss integration and xenophobia:

The project attracted the attention of Bulgarian institutions as well, and the Culture Institute at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised an The UnBulgarians exhibition in Strasbourg as part of the Bulgarian presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.


Given that this is a awareness raising project, its success was evaluated by the quantity and quality of media coverages and by its level of endorsement by public institutions.

Who will benefit?

Apart from foreigners themselves, The UnBulgarians targeted decision-makers, the media and the broad public. At the end of the project, it reached an estimated of more than 2,000,000 people in its target group.

Source of funding and Resources used

The total budget of The UnBulgarians was 20,147.10 euro. The project was supported by the NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009-2014. The approved funding from the programme covered 86.46 percent of the budget. The remaining 13.54 percent were provided by donations from Free Speech International and Multi Kulti Collective.

A number of specialists took part in the project's implementation, including a photographer, a photo editor, a copy-writer, a translator, a graphic designer, a web designer, event organisers, researchers, and others.


Free Speech International Foundation with a partner, Multi Kulti Collective
Anthony Georgieff
Chairman of the Free Speech International

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